In this Memorial Day weekend edition of the Week in Writing, we review commas and the use of “that.” We also learn about the future of dialect in Texas, what it's like to get fan mail from Elmore Leonard, and why writing by hand might be a good idea.
In this piece for The New York Times
, Ben Yagoda provides some refreshers on essential vs. non-essential commas, missing commas, and the comma splice. Some of his tips include: “Whenever you find yourself using a comma before an Identification, Characterization or Explanation, remember that there has to be a comma after the I.C.E. as well.” Read the story here
When do you need "that"?
There's no consensus for the use of "that" among some of the more notable style guides. For example, “President Obama said Wednesday he would go to Europe.” Where does "that" belong? Or does it belong at all? Merrill Perlman takes this on at the Columbia Journalism Review
, and explains why the AP, New York Times
, and Garner's Modern American Usage
all have a different approach. Read the post here
Fan mail from a famous writer.
Sometimes a "good job" from your editor or boss goes a long way. When that (plus about 200 more words of encouragement) comes from novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard in a typed, mailed letter, you've got something to frame on your wall. That happened to a Detroit Free-Press
reporter after she filed a story on a roofer who was electrocuted on the job. Leonard wrote to tell her, "What I admire the most is the sound of your writing, your effortless style." Read the story here
Texas twang dying?
This is more about dialect than writing. But sooner or later, new dialects find their way into our writing. In this essay, a University of Texas professor explores the vanishing Texas twang, and the way residents of the state are learning to use it only selectively. “Although the dialect is far less prominent in Texas, people still speak it,” he says. “But it depends on who they’re talking to, what they’re talking about, and whether it triggers their Texas pride.” Read the full story here
Writing by hand.
Many times I've written a first draft of a speech or article by hand. For some reason, the words just seem to flow better and faster, despite knowing there's the extra step of typing it later. On the Journal in a Box
blog, Tonya Schulte interviews writing coach Dean Lofton, who teaches students to write drafts by hand because it encourages creativity. According to Lofton, “Since most people work on a computer, writing by hand creates an energetic shift in thought and creativity and becomes a meditative practice which opens up intuition and deeper insight." Read the story here
As a bonus this week—in case you've got hours of extra time—I shot the serif
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.